Steam Stripping – Modular Systems for Wastewater Treatment

Stripping organic contaminants from a plant’s wastewater stream is a major problem facing processing managers and engineers. High costs, aging infrastructures, tighter regulations, and greater water-supply demands all keep pressures on the bottom line. Koch Modular designs and builds performance guaranteed modular steam stripping systems with single-source responsibility, all on a lump sum fixed-price basis. We understand that every plant is unique, and design specifications and requirements must be flexible to process a range of contaminants in the feed stream. That’s why we’ve pioneered the design-build-install modular system’s approach. Steam stripping removal of VOC contaminants from waste streams is one of our specialties, and our design engineers are experts in working with clients to build the right process system for each application. While the most common application of steam stripping on plant wastewater is for volatile organic compounds such as dioxane, methylene chloride (dichloromethane) and BTX aromatics: benzene-toluene-xylene,  it is also employed for other compounds such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

We can also provide design studies, pilot testing solutions, laboratory testing, vapor-liquid equilibrium (VLR) development, and complete process design engineering packages (PDP.) For custom setups, check out the steam stripping pilot testing page.


What Is Steam Stripping and How Does It Work?

Steam stripping, also known as steam distillation, is an affordable, one-step solution to cleaning volatile organic compounds (VOC) from plant wastewater streams. Typically, wastewater feed streams enter a distillation column at the top and flow downward, while steam enters the column at the bottom and rises. Pressure/temperature phase differences between the steam and contaminants allow the steam to strip the contaminants from the water. Based on applications, variables include methods to increase the water-steam surface contact area, pressures, temperatures, and others.  It’s important to note that these processes must also meet the latest PEG (Pharmaceutical Effluent Guidelines), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and NESHAP regulations, including Miscellaneous Organic NESHAP (MON), Hazardous Organic  NESHAP (HON), and Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT.) Koch Modular is proud to offer design outcomes with unmatched adherence to all regulatory requirements.

Process design parameters depend on the particular VOCs present, concentrations, boiling points, and solubility, among other factors. Stripping is straightforward if the contaminants’ boiling points are lower than that of water, but different feedwater compositions may require additional design features. As a result, analysis and testing of design concepts is a critical step in system project planning, an integral element in Koch’s design process. Once extracted, the organic contaminants are removed from the system in a concentrated distillate stream. Minimizing this distillate stream’s volume is important to minimize the plant disposal costs.

Waste minimization is achieved by providing greater separation between the water and organic phases.  This is accomplished by first condensing and then decanting the column’s overhead product to separate the water phase and the insoluble organic phase, with subsequent refluxing of the water phase from the decanter to the top of the stripping column. It is common to run the steam stripping process through several rectification stages and/or add reflux to the steam stripping column when stripped organics are soluble in water. This also helps reduce the water content of the organic contaminant distillate stream. The organic contaminants can then be drawn off as a liquid product for recycling purposes or disposal or as a vapor product fed to a thermal oxidizer.

Understanding Steam Stripping Column Design

Steam used to strip organic compounds is injected at the bottom of a steam stripping column. Wastewater is injected at the top of the column. The steam rises in the column and flows upward, countercurrent to the water. Often packing, trays, or other materials are placed in the column to increase the surface contact between the steam and water, resulting in greater contaminant removal. The steam containing the organics is collected at the top of the stripping column, condensed, and separated via a decanter. The condensed steam is then refluxed to the top of the stripper column.  Koch design engineers stay up-to-date with and incorporate all applicable EPA, environmental, state, or local regulations into any design. Client requirements and general procedural, health, safety, and other essential project-related conditions are part of every Koch project. All systems meet Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards set by the EPA.

Koch Modular Process Systems is the leader in modular process system construction, saving our customers both time and money. Components of the final system are constructed as modules at our module construction shop, under roof, which means work continues regardless of the weather. This approach is safer, and construction can be conducted in parallel with securing required permits.  This means our customers save months from project initiation to implementation. Learn more about the benefits of modular construction here and here.

Common Steam Stripper Applications


  • Methanol


  • Butanol


  • Ethanol


  • Amyl Alcohol

    Amyl Alcohol

  • Propanols



  • Acetone


  • Methyl Ester Ketone (MEK)

  • Methyl Isobutyl Ketone (MIBK)

    Methyl Isobutyl Ketone (MIBK)


  • Benzene


  • Styrene


  • Ethylbenzene

  • Toluene

  • Cumene

  • Naphthalenes


  • Xylenes


  • Alphamethyl Styrene


  • Hexane


  • Heptane


  • Cyclohexane

  • Iso-octane



  • Methyl Acetate

    Methyl Acetate

  • Ethyl Acetate

    Ethyl Acetate

  • Propyl and Butyl Acetates

  • Amylacetate

Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

  • Methylene Chloride

    Methylene Chloride

  • Chloroform


  • Carbon Tetrachloride

    Carbon Tetrachloride

  • Ethylene Dichloride

    Ethylene Dichloride (dichloromethane)

  • Trichloroethylene

    Trichloroethylene (TCE)


In addition to the aforementioned effluences, Koch Modular Process Systems also has steam stripping experience with the following:

  • Acetaldehyde


  • Acetonitrile


  • Ammonia


  • Dioxane


  • Formaldehyde


  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

  • Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN)

    Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN)

  • Isopropyl Ether

    Isopropyl Ether

  • Triethanolamine (TEA)

  • Tetrohydrofuran (THF)

Ammonia Recovery from Koch Modular

Ammonia Recovery

Ammonia absorption and recovery projects are not a unique challenge for the Koch Modular process team. They have a high level of experience in this area and with an abundance of existing data, no pilot trials were necessary to design a solution and then guarantee the ammonia absorption system performance. However, there were challenges. The ammonia vapor feed stream was composed of multiple ammonia-containing streams with a variety of compositions. The Koch Modular team worked with the client to agree upon a feed basis for the design of the system. As often occurs, the ammonia recovery project was part of an overall major expansion, and the client requested that the modules be designed to fit indoors both functionally and spatially into the new facility. This request, and the overall scale and building configuration presented some unique design challenges.

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